By Courtney Widli
The room was filled with warm welcomes, excitement and a sense of fun, light-hearted competition as members of the season 7 “Dancing with the Rutland Stars” cast came together for the first time last week at Rutland Country Club. The meet and greet event introduced the seven local celebrity stars dancing in this year’s competition to their professional dance partners, and kicked off the beginning of more than five months of practice and preparation for the live show.
“I was so surprised when I was asked to be a part of this event, and I didn’t even think about it. It was an automatic ‘yes.’ It is just one of those enriching experiences in so many ways, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute,” said Joan Watson, one of this year’s participating local stars. “I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but I am sure going to try to dance.”
This year’s “Dancing with the Rutland Stars” pairings include Edward Jones financial advisor Reed Wilcox, dancing with partner Sheila McCutcheon of Miss Jackie’s Studio of Dance; Rutland Police Department Commander Matt Prouty partnered with Kylee Lawrence, owner of Studio 15: Academy of the Arts; Coldwell Banker Watson Realty co-owner Joan Watson dancing with Adam King of Studio Fitness; Dr. Robin Leight, of Rutland Women’s Healthcare, partnered with David Allen, owner of Green Mountain Swing Dancing; Abatiello Design Center owner Mike Abatiell dancing with Tracy Tedesco of Fitness Made Fun!; Awesome Graphics owner Mike Napolitano paired with Mary Fran Skaza of Miss Lorraine’s School of Dance; and Elissa Hewitt, a pediatric speech-language pathologist with Kids on the Move, dancing with Bill Kelley, the founder of Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center.
With each couple’s eye on dancing their way to the Mirror Ball Trophy, professional dance partners will each choreograph a themed dance to be performed before a panel of judges, while their daring group of seven local celebrities will trade in their professional work attire for dance lessons and rhythm.
“The best part of it is us all getting together and accomplishing this together,” said long standing DWTRS veteran Tracy Tedesco, whose season 7 performance will mark her fifth year competing in the annual fundraising event. She said, “I love working with someone who thinks they can’t dance and bringing out that side of them.”
The specialty fundraising event raises necessary money for Kids on the Move and the Visiting Nurse & Hospice of the Southwest Region’s Pediatric High-Tech program. Offering a broad range of health care services for children and families throughout the region, the programs provide a complete continuum of care, from prenatal care to newborn home visits, pediatric rehabilitation services and comprehensive case management for medically fragile children with hi-tech care needs.
“When we started this event seven years ago, we had no idea what we were getting into,” explained board of directors President Carrie Allen, adding that, collectively, the event has raised more than $130,000 for pediatric programming in the region since its inception. “We haven’t looked back, and every single year since, the bar has continued to be raised.”
“Dancing with the Rutland Stars” will take over the Paramount Theatre stage for the live show Oct. 7, with tickets going on sale at the Paramount Box Office or online beginning Sept. 1.
Community members are encouraged to come cheer on their favorite couple as they salsa, cha-cha, foxtrot and tango in the name of charity, including an additional audience participation portion of the evening, during which the audience votes for a fan favorite.
“Each year, the stars and their dancing professionals bring their unique personalities to life for the show, and that translates into some memorable performances,” said Katie O’Connor-West, DWTRS event coordinator. “Year after year, so many people come out and support us and what we do, from volunteers to the performers and community members who attend the show, which is what makes this event such a success.”